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Galaxy Z Fold 3 might not come with a built-in S Pen stylus

Published Apr 15th, 2021 7:09PM EDT
Galaxy Z Fold 3
Image: Samsung

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When the Galaxy Fold launched in 2019, it seemed like the kind of phone that could replace the Galaxy Note and continue its legacy. The Fold would be the smartphone with the largest display in Samsung’s lineup, a role the Note had fulfilled for years. The foldable was also bulky enough to offer space for a built-in stylus, which is one of the Galaxy Note’s only remaining signature features. But real-life usage showed the Fold’s plastic screen wasn’t suitable for use with a stylus. It was too easy to scratch the screen with your finger.

The Galaxy Z Fold 2 came out last year with a few significant upgrades. Samsung improved the hinge to prevent debris from getting into the phone, removed the ugly display notch, and replaced the plastic screen with an Ultra Thin Glass (UTG) layer. The same technology was employed on the Galaxy Z Flip that launched in early 2020. But the stylus was still off limits.

Fast-forward to 2021, and the Z Fold 3 is expected to be the first foldable phone to work with an S Pen. But a new report says the phone won’t ship with a built-in stylus, which will have to be stored separately.

The Z Fold 3 will launch likely in the second half of the year, replacing the Note 21. Samsung said a few weeks ago that the current chip shortage forced it to cancel the Note 21, but the writing was already on the wall for the Note series. There weren’t any rumors suggesting Note 21 development was underway. Samsung’s new phones usually leak months ahead of launch. Meanwhile, the Z Fold 3 has already appeared in a number of reports.

Korean news site Naver learned that the original plan was to ship the Galaxy Z Fold 3 with a built-in S Pen. Until last month, Samsung wanted to house the S Pen in the foldable phone, just like the Note.

One of the reasons why Samsung dropped this design choice concerns internal space. There’s not enough of it, the report says. A rumor a few days ago indicated that the Z Fold 3 would have a smaller battery than its predecessor. The handset would be more portable, too, and that could explain the change in battery size. We speculated that the S Pen slot would also take room away from the battery.

Naver also indicates that placing the S Pen inside the foldable phone caused concerns about waterproofing. The Samsung foldable phones are not dust or waterproof like other Samsung handsets. The Z Fold 3 will not get a rating for dust and water resistance. Adding a hole inside the phone that would house the stylus would have possibly increased the risk for liquid-related accidents, although the report doesn’t explain exactly how that would work.

As mass-production isn’t supposed to start in June, Samsung might still change its mind ahead of the expected late-summer Galaxy Z Fold 3 launch window.

What seems to be clear is that the Z Fold 3 will support the S Pen. That’s excellent news, as it indicates the new UTG glass might indeed be stronger than the original version. Naver notes that Fold 2 did not support the S Pen because of flexibility issues with the digitizer that recognizes the stylus and the thin UTG layer.

Galaxy S21 Ultra
Galaxy S21 Ultra now works with the S Pen stylus. Image source: Samsung

Samsung will likely provide a case with a slot that can house the S Pen, the report notes. The company already started moving in this direction earlier this year when the Galaxy S21 Ultra became the first Galaxy S phone to work with the S Pen. Naver also claims that Samsung will launch the second-gen Galaxy Z Flip and the Galaxy S21 FE in the second half of the year, with the three phones expected to take the place of the Galaxy Note 21.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.